Cradles in the sand

BY : NovaAlexandria
Category: Bleach > Het - Male/Female
Dragon prints: 1937
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, not make any profit from my stories.

She was pushed and prodded down the sandstone corridor, her escort being non-to-gentle. Her body ached dully from the thrashing it had received during her capture. She was going to be covered in bruises in a few hours. They were going to suck, but were rather unlikely to kill her. She was just thankful none of her injuries were major.

Admittedly, it wasn’t like it was hard for him to capture me, she thought sourly. Bloody Quincy bastards. Their gripe is with Soul Society and shinigami. I don’t see why they bothered to pay attention to a human like myself just defending herself and her friends from blood thirsty hollows. Bloody hypocrites, she growled to herself.

“Keep moving,” the man behind her snarled, giving her another shove that almost sent her to her knees. She stumbled, but managed to recover before going down. She tugged at the ropes of energy binding her wrist behind her back, but the damn things moved with her motions and showed no sign of loosening or breaking.

“You push me one more time, and I am going to kick you so damn hard where the sun doesn’t shine that your decedents won’t be able to have properly formed brats,” she snarled at him, turning to give him a glare that gave him pause. No one knew how to glare like a Kurosaki. Tougher men than this one had quailed before that look.

The man recovered quickly, but only after clutching his spear and eyeing her bound wrists before laughing at her. “In a few minutes, you are going to be nothing more than a smear of blood on the sand,” he taunted while giving her another push, causing her to stumble backwards.

I swear to Kami, if my hands were not tied behind my back, I would deck the bastard into the next century! The rest of her thoughts were far more violent and contained a fair bit of foul cursing that would have had Yuzu staring at her with that stern gaze that made even hardened men blush with embarrassment and duck their head meekly.

There was a growing commotion ahead of her as they moved down the plain, sandstone corridor. The sounds akin to ones she’d heard in the soccer stadiums she’d visited; back when life had been far less complicated. Unlike those cheers, these ones sounded blood thirsty to her ears for some reason. A rather impressive feat given how passionate some people took the sports. A bright light appeared at the end of the corridor she was being prodded along. The noise grew louder until it was almost deafening. She squinted her eyes as she was pushed through the doorway into what appeared to be a coliseum. The sun from above had no heat or weight to it and the ‘sky’ was too uniform of a colour for her to believe it was real. In fact, it reminded her very much of Kisuke’s training grounds under his shop.

Fake roof. That would explain the light. I remember Ichi-nii and Orihime-chan commenting on the false sky of Las Noches. That explains how we went from the dark skies of Hueco Mundo to a suddenly sunlit coliseum. This can’t be Las Noches though. Last I heard, Ichi-nii and the others still held that city and I am sure Ise-san would have mentioned it if they had lost it. A defeat that big couldn’t be hidden, it would be betrayed by their posture and attitude. Orihime, in particular, really sucks at hiding things and Nel doesn’t ever bother. The old man could take a lesson from her book, she thought sourly.

She was in a coliseum, one taken right from the pictures she’d seen in the chapters about the Roman Empire in her history books. The crowd was full of white clad Quincy wearing their uniforms interspaced with those wearing other colours; although they were all pale ones. Civilians most likely, or possibly other support units of the military such as cooks, blacksmiths, and the like. There was a large, shaded balcony across from her with the light falling in a manner that shrouded it in darkness; preventing her from seeing if it was occupied, let alone by whom.

“And for today’s last form of entertainment; a spiritually aware human from Kurakara town. Let’s see if she can last any longer than the black clad fools who still dare to oppose his Majesty’s will.”

She couldn’t spot the announcer from her position, nor was it anywhere near the top of her list of concerns. The crowd roared as she was roughly shoved toward the edge of the pit and out onto a plank. All around the boarder she could see cell bars, but the artificial light from above cast the cages in shadow like the covered booth, making it impossible to see what was inside of them. With one more violent shove, she found herself flailing through the air into the pit. The restraints around her wrists vanished halfway down and she managed to land in a semi-roll so she didn’t break her wrists or ankles upon impact with the fine, white sand. She felt her control over her reiatsu also vanish at the same time as the restraints, which was what truly pulled the foul curses out of her lips as she quickly scrambled to her feet and fell into the defensive stance Tatsuki had hammered into her over the last decade.

The sand in the pit was relatively clean, but there were a few wet spots she really didn’t want to get close enough to examine. Several uneven spots had what looked like fresh bones sticking out, still glistening and bloodstained. The light was too bright to see what was in the cages, but she had a sickening feeling she was going to find out all too soon.

The sound of bars scraping against rock caused her to whip around to face the set that was slowly rising. Ignoring the minor aches she had acquired from both her capture and the fall, she shifted her defensive stance to face the oncoming threat and prayed she wasn’t about to find herself facing down several man-eating lions or something.

Well, that isn’t a lion, but close enough, she thought as the bone white feline, easily larger than any tiger she’d ever seen in a zoo, prowled out of its cage in a lazy manner and began to circle her. The hole going through its back assured her she was facing a hollow, and judging by the intelligent glint in its bright blue eyes, this was hardly some low-level hollow either. Meaning I am probably facing an Adjucus. Fuck. Well if I have no reiatsu down here, then it probably doesn’t either. That means no cero or hierro, so it’s a matter of my fist and feet verses its razor-sharp claws and fangs. Oh yeah, this is going to end well, she thought sarcastically. Being sarcastic was the only way she was holding back her terror.

She shifted her footing to keep the stalking feline before her, studying it as it studied her. It seemed in no rush to attack her, at least not yet, and each step was solid and sure. She could detect no weaknesses or injuries she might be able to exploit.

What kind of feline is it anyhow? Not a lion and the shape isn’t right enough to be a tiger or a cheetah. Jaguar or leopard perhaps? Not that there is much of a difference between the two save for which side of the ocean they ended up on. The thought tugged something in her mind, but she lost the thought as the hollow finally charged at her. She leaped to the right and spun about, kicking it in the side and barely avoiding the flurry of claws and fangs as they passed each other. The crowd above them cheered and she wished she could spare a second to scowl hatefully up at them and tell them just what she thought about this disgusting display.

The two of them reset their stance and the circle stalking began anew. Several more times the jaguar-like hollow charged her. She earned a good number of cuts from those sharp claws, but at least she managed to keep its fangs away from her. The crowd cheered louder as her blood added more dark spots to the sand. The next pass had her catch sight of the hollow’s sex as she rolled out of the way of the slashing claws.

Well, this is only slowing my inevitable death down, she thought sourly. Why does he keep rotating in the same direction? No matter how each pass ends, he always stalks counter clockwise.

She shifted her weight and almost tripped as something under her foot rolled. The hollow charged the moment she was off balance. Instead of trying to regain her balance, she let herself fall and grabbed the round object, swinging it with all her strength to smash the bone across his face. She earned some minor lacerations on her legs, but the smash to his head must have made his eyes cross for he leaped away from her, but not before she managed to tear a ragged gash on his underbelly from the splintered end of her new weapon.

She scrambled to her feet and reset her stance the best she could with her stinging legs while her opponent inspected the gash she’d given him. The blue eyes that stared back at her narrowed and she narrowed her own in response.

“Come on, you furless kitten,” she growled, brandishing her new weapon. Without his hierro and with a weapon in had now, even if it was less than ideal, she just might stand a chance. A small one, but if I can get the sharp end of my weapon through an eye or into his neck or chest, I might injure him enough to finish him off, she thought optimistically. She thoroughly refused to think about her weapon being a bone; because if she did her mind would point out how very much it looked like a snapped off, human femur.

Blue eyes narrowed dangerously and this time he charged her with a snarl. She held the bone weapon diagonally before her, catching it in his mouth and keeping his fangs away from her. His massive weight bore her easily to the sand and she had to squirm a bit to avoid his claws. Fortunately, he was too busy using them to keep his own balance to bring them to bear. She scowled in annoyance and tried to keep the bone caught in his mouth; to keep his fangs away from her throat. If he caught the bone between his fangs, she had no doubt he would snap it in twain.

Her scowl deepened in frustration at the temporary stalemate and the beast on top of her suddenly froze, or at least he stopped trying to kill her. He didn’t let up the pressure and it felt like her arms were ready to break holding his massive bulk and strength off her.

“r in?” His voice was heavily garbled thanks to the bone acting like a gag.

“Huh?” she questioned intelligently.

Cautiously, the large feline backed off; weary of the ‘weapon’ in her hand. She scrambled back to her feet and finally got a good look at his other flank and the black tattoo that stained his white hide. There was only one hollow that could possibly match the one before her and, even though she had never personally met him, she had no doubt she knew who this was. Lord knew her brother groused about him enough over the last decade.

“Grimmjow!” she gapped at him.

“You’re Karin ain’t ya?” he demanded.

“Yeah,” she answered, feeling herself relax just a trifle now that they sort of recognized each other.

“Tch, thought I recognized that scowl,” he growled. “You look like your stupid brother.”

The cheering crowed above them slowly teetered off to grumbles of discontent and boos when it became clear that the battle had ended for now. Grimmjow turned his glare up to the shadowed balcony before baring his fangs and letting out a loud roar. A good number of people in the crowd flinched, she included for his roar was extra loud when one was that close to it, and more snapped their mouths shut. Silence descended on the stadium.

 

 

 

When the last sport was announced, he knew he was going to get something resembling a paltry meal today after all. What he hadn’t been expecting was for his meal to tug slightly at his memory the moment they faced each other. There were very few shinigami he had ever met, fewer he bothered to remember even slightly, and yet this one seemed familiar and very different from most of the other weaklings that were tossed into the pit.

First off, this woman wasn’t wearing a shihakusho, but rather what appeared to be grey slacks with a white t-shirt and running shoes. It wasn’t the clothing difference that pulled at his mind though, but something in her mannerism and eyes. At first, he thought it might have been the black haired shinigami he’d impaled once that liked to hang around Kurosaki, but the eyes were the wrong colour and the face not nearly as round. He was also rather well acquainted with Rukia since Ichigo liked to hang around her a lot, and if his nose had been right, finally mating her too. This woman was also taller than the Kuchiki rat by a fair amount, not to mention Kurosaki’s short friend would have recognized him right away and this woman clearly didn’t.

The other thing that was interesting was the fact that, while she was clearly concerned for her wellbeing, she had quickly fallen into a defensive stance and kept her eyes on him. There was no frantic running towards a wall and attempting to scale it, nor dashing towards the only gate that led out of this circular death hole. There was no begging or pleading for mercy from their captors or him, nor was there any hysterical weeping. It was rare that happened.

He stopped circling and made a half-hearted lunge to see how she would react. She rolled pass him and managed to connect her foot with his side. It even stung a little. She quickly regained her feet and turned to face him as fast as she could. Her entire focus was on him as she ignored the Quincy filth taking in the show. Nothing about the move jogged his memory, but something about her seemed so damn familiar it was aggravating. He gave her mental praise when she found a bone under the sand and brandished it as a weapon. Seeing her holding it just tickled his mind some more, but it wasn’t until he had her pinned beneath him and she scowled up at him that it clicked.

That scowl. That determined look in the eye even in the face of obvious defeat. The hair and eyes were different colours, but there was no mistaking that expression or the sharp contours of that face. This young woman had black hair instead of blond, which could only mean one thing.

The bone in his mouth garbled his inquiry, but she must have understood him somewhat. He backed carefully away, mindful of that sharpened bone, and watched as she quickly regained her feet. She fell back into a defensive stance the moment she was vertical. His guess must have been dead on for she knew his name as well and while he had never met with either of Ichigo’s sisters, his patrol partner had certainly gabbed about them enough times when the silence had gone on far too long. Apparently, Kurosaki had returned the favour with his sisters during the brief moments he got to spend with them.

“Tch, thought I recognized that scowl,” he growled, turning his glare up to the shadowed balcony before baring his fangs and letting out a loud roar. “Very funny fuck face. I bet you would have just loved to tell Kurosaki how I ate one of his sisters,” he snarled.

The entire crowd remained silent. Yhwach and his pet came into the light to stare down at them. The mere sight of the bastard Quincy king set his hackles up, for he’d been the one directly responsible for the return to four legs. He would never forget the way his body had twisted and jerked as Yhwach used some sort of ability or tool to forcefully strip him of the shinigami part of his collection and regress him back into an Adjucus. He’d only been the first Arrancar to suffer. Others had followed, including Nel during one of her lucid moments in her adult form. In Nel’s case though, it had worked out for the better as her broken mask had been fixed and she’d been reverted to a high level Adjucus. She had quickly evolved back into a Vasto Lorde with a few well-placed meals the Quincy had been ever so kind to provide for her with their bodies. The idiots had really stabbed themselves in the foot turning her.

A small part him supposed he should be thankful he hadn’t been slain that day while he had panted in the sand with Yhwach standing over him in a very please manner that his little ‘spell’ had worked, but that would require him to admit Ichigo had saved his life. It was bad enough still owing the hybrid for saving him from that dick Nnoitra, but acknowledging he had two life debts was almost physically painful.

“I find it amusing you would throw one of Ichigo’s sisters into the pit, Hashwald” Yhwach chuckled. “She could be so much more useful to us alive.”

“I would sooner die than be used against Ichi-nii,” Karin snarled from beside him, a remark he silently applauded, as the two on the balcony continued to look at them like one would a dog doing interesting tricks for the amusement of others.

“I am sorry, your Majesty. I foolishly believed she was one of his spiritually aware, human friends.”

The fact Hashwald had no idea who Karin was took him by surprise. It would seem the fools hadn’t even known who they’d had captive. The rank and file made sense, but Hashwald should have recognized their target’s family members. He ignored the fact it had taken him a moment to, but at least he had figured it out quickly. He wondered if they would have thrown Karin down here at all if they had known her connection to Ichigo, or if they planned on fishing her out now. She would be a very valuable hostage, especially considering how much of a pain in their asses Ichigo was being.

“I thought it would be interesting to see how a spiritually aware human would fare against your pets over a Shinigami. I was unaware his sisters had developed abilities.”

He snarled up at the bastards at being referred to as a ‘pet’ and turned his back on the duo. “C’mon,” he growled, heading back towards his cell. Karin didn’t hesitate long before following in his wake. Smart girl. It will be harder to fish her out if she’s in my den. As much as I hate to admit it, I owe Kurosaki and it will really stick it in their craw to fuck up their plans by keeping her safe. Not that I should need to do much. Bitch has spunk, he couldn’t help but to think amused.

He ignored her presence once they were inside the dubious safety of his assigned den and lay down in his nest. He would need to conserve his strength and not waste energy until his next feeding, whenever that was due. He doubted he would be given another chance on the next round of entertainment just because he’d chosen to spare her. He also didn’t want to admit she’d landed a few good hits on him and he used the majority of his bulk to block the sight of him cleaning the gash she’d made with that bone. It had been a good strike and if the bone had been braced against the ground, might have even done some serious damage.

The next frenzy should be in a few more cycles. If I rest and not use any strength, I should be more than strong enough to get in a few meals. Weak ass chumps, no wonder they are kissing these bastards’ boots. They never had a chance at becoming Vasto Lorde. Becoming an Arrancar is the best they could ever hope to get. He ignored the little voice at the back of his head that called him a hypocrite. Aizen had given him a short cut after all. Tch, Aizen was going to kill us if we refused and we didn’t exactly have anywhere to run and hide to. These fools are playing with fire. It won’t be much longer, I can feel the power within me coiling so tightly it should be bursting forth soon. I will bathe in their blood and feast upon their corpses for days to come. Such thoughts entertained him for a short while before his attention was once more called to his new den mate.

 

 

 

 

Karin hadn’t missed the way Grimmjow growled at the back of his throat over being referred to as a ‘pet,’ but she also noticed he didn’t return a smart aleck comment either, something that seemed out of character given her second hand knowledge of the former Espada.

She didn’t hesitate long before following in his wake when he led her back to his cell. The last thing she needed was for a different cell to be opened and to end up facing a new opponent, one that would be delighted to eat her. The crowd was murmuring and she could feel eyes on her back as she followed Grimmjow. It took a lot of control not to shiver at the feeling. There wasn’t much in the cell other than what looked like a nest made of black and white cloth. The bars came down behind her, locking her in the rather small room. The walls on either side appeared to be more sandstone and she noticed the double sets of bars on the inner side.

Like the safety pens zoos used to transfer items in and out of the cages. I suppose they could also be used to move prisoners between them while the cell is cleaned.

The sound of the crowd leaving acted as background noise and a glance out of the cell revealed several very nervous people cleaning the arena. She frowned as she noticed they seemed to be wearing very tattered shihakusho, suggesting they were probably shinigami prisoners that hadn’t been chosen to be eaten, or at least, not yet.

Grimmjow moved over to his nest and lay down, promptly ignoring her. She sat down against the wall across from him and began to inspect her injuries, hissing as she used a relatively clean part of her clothing to try and brush the sand out of her lacerations. A few were deep enough that she tore off small strips to bind them.

Considering what lives in these cells; it’s no wonder they are nervous. I wonder how often some Quincy jackass opens one, or more, of these cells just to see which ones don’t make it to safety.

Damn these wounds are starting to sting and, as much as I hate to admit it, I am out of breath too. Another fight now would not end well for me. Besides, I wasn’t lying when I said I would sooner die than be used against anyone. I got a feeling Grimmjow would have no problems ending my life quickly if I asked. He might even enjoy it as a bit of payback to Ichi-nii for all their scuffles. At least my pride is appeased slightly to learn it was their second in command that took me down so damn easily and not some stupid grunt, she thought as she felt her wounded pride stitch a bit of itself back together, followed by several more stitches over the knowledge she’d actually lasted longer than four seconds against Grimmjow in that pit, even if he was stripped of everything but his own physical strength. He was a trained killer, a predator full of weapons. She’d had her fists and the bone she’d managed to trip over.

“I don’t suppose we are lucky enough to have water anywhere?” she asked after a look around the room revealed nothing more than floor, bars, walls, ceiling, Grimmjow, and his nest of cloth.

“Not very often,” he answered.

“Shit!” she cursed. “Would be just my luck to have one of these scratches get infected and die to an infection,” she muttered. The universe would spite her that way too, she just knew it. She could already see the fever dreams. She nearly jumped when his shadow fell over her.

“Let me see,” he ordered.

She held the arm she’d been inspecting out and just about shot out of her clothing when his rough tongue ran over the wound. It was not very comfortable. His tongue was of a feline nature, and thus bristle furs covered it. Considering the absence of water, which might not even be clean if they had it, it was probably the best way to get the dirt out. He tended to all her scratches before returning silently to his nest.

Least his breath doesn’t stink or anything. Man, I hope they let us take showers occasionally. I got sand in places I would rather not think about and my hair is a tangled rats nest, not to mention I am going to stink if I am forced to live in these sweat soaked clothes.

Not long after the prisoners were done cleaning the arena and retreated to their own cells somewhere, the lights turned off, plunging her into darkness. She mentally cursed as she blinked her eyes rapidly. After several very long minutes, the only thing that appeared was glowing red eyes from several of the cells across the way. It was very unnerving and she felt the hair on her body rise as her skin became hyper sensitive. Even her hearing seemed to jump in sensitivity.

“So, obviously, you are not dead,” she commented after the silence and darkness finally got to her.

A snort was her response.

“Dare I ask what this place is, other than a ring for some sort of sick, Quincy entertainment?”

“Training ground,” he grunted. “Most of those in the other cells are baseline Adjucus, but a few were Arrancar forcefully regressed like me. The pathetic ones are removed from their cells and sent to the front as cannon fodder for these fuck faces when they have ‘earned the privilege by contributing to the empire,’” he snorted in contempt.

That made some sense. She’d learned from the others over the years that the Quincy had been using hollows as shock troops. An Adjucus alone could take out an entire squad of even seated officers and very few shinigami could take on an Arrancar.

“From what my brother has said, you hardly seem like the ‘loyal lapdog’ type, and if you have been here for as long as you have been presumed dead, why haven’t they just killed you yet?” she asked confused.

“Stupidity?” he offered, pulling a chuckle from her.

“That, I can fully believe they have in abundance.”

Silence fell between them again, but this time it felt somewhat more comfortable. It was getting cold the longer the lights were out. Or perhaps, it was always cold in here and now that the adrenaline has worn off, I am finally starting to notice it.

She curled up the best she could, trying to make herself comfortable on the sandy floor. There was about two inches of the dry, grainy stuff before she hit more sandstone. No doubt the cell was layered in sand because it was easy to clean, which was not a pleasant thought. She hadn’t exactly seen anything resembling a latrine in here.

Her instincts screamed at her not to turn her back to a predator, especially one as dangerous as the large feline behind her, but she told them to ‘take a hike’ and pointed out to herself that if Grimmjow wanted to eat her, there really wasn’t much that could stop him. Oh, she could delay it, but she wasn’t fooling herself into thinking that she would have won out there. She piled up the sand around her the best she could and curled against the wall, pulling her arms in under her shirt and tight around her. It helped a little, but not much. By the end of an hour she was still wide awake and shivering. The sounds from the other cells didn’t help any either. She could hear growling, snarling and what sounded like the odd whimper and soft cry. The fact the latter two sounded disturbingly human didn’t help matters any. She damn near jumped out of her skin when she felt something land on her.

“Your shivering is annoying,” Grimmjow growled.

“Sorry,” she muttered sarcastically, but didn’t try and push the fabric he’d dropped on her away. She thought it was some sort of yukata, but in the dark she couldn’t tell. All that mattered was that it would work as a blanket. Folded in half, it offered some warmth at least and her little cocoon eventually gained some warmth, at least enough she wasn’t ‘cold’ anymore, but she would hardly say she was warm. It was so dark that she honestly had no idea when she managed to fall asleep.

It was well after lights out when Karin finally fell into a restless slumber under the bedding he had provided for her. He’d honestly expected her to crawl into the nest with him for the shared warmth, but it would seem she was still leery of him. He could respect that. It was not easy to share a nest with someone you just met when they had just tried to eat you an hour or so ago. Feigned companionship for an easy meal was not uncommon amongst Adjucus.

 

He was just getting ready to get some rest himself when the occupant of the cell to his left spoke up. “Getting soft, Grimmjow?”

“Fuck off Starrk. It’s none of your business,” he growled.

“I wonder how long she will remain compliant in your cell when she sees what they feed us, or what we do to the ones they give us as pets. You should get some sleep tonight while you can.”

“Tch,” he scoffed, but had to admit the coyote was right. Ichigo still got squeamish at times when he had to feed on the more human shaped Adjucus and there was no telling if Karin would handle it any better, especially considering she might end up knowing some of their meals. There was also the chance that the Quincy bastards may offer a reward to whichever Adjucus could kill/eat her during the next frenzy, or at least separate her from him and into their own cells where she could be more easily retrieved.

Again, assuming they feed her at all. It’s not like I can just conjure up food for her to eat, and I doubt I could convince her to share my meals. Doing so would probably just make her sick; humans can’t eat raw meat after all. Ah fuck it, no use worrying over shit we can’t control.

He drifted off to a light slumber, one that would be easily broken if any disturbance should enter his cell. He wouldn’t put it past the fools to try and take her while he was resting. It would be a foolish move, but he didn’t credit half of the guards with the intelligence someone as dim witted as Yammy had been able to boast. If anything, they would send their slaves in to try and recover her since his eating the wretches spared to be slaves wouldn’t be any loss to them. He wasn’t worried about her coming after him at all. If she was anything like Ichigo, now that they were ‘companions’ she would lay her life on the line for his own. It was a strange thing humans, or at least those of the Kurosaki line, seemed to do.

 

 

 

While I started this fict near the end of POV, I still haven’t finished it as I have been working on an original piece of fiction that I am pleased to announce has just finished its first round of editing and is halfway through its second. I do have 125 pages of this fict done, and I decided to start posting it to, hopefully, motivate me to finish it up.



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